Meal planning doesn’t have to be a time-consuming chore. In fact, this free printable meal planning binder will help you plan your weekly menu quickly and efficiently!
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Ah, the Meal Plan.
It’s a real sanity-saver when you make one each week, but it can also be a bit of a hassle if you don’t know how to plan your meals quickly and efficiently.
In fact, as much as I love having a meal plan, I used to dread actually making my meal plan every Sunday afternoon.
Because I never knew what to put on it.
I would spend the better part of an hour trying to come up with meal ideas for the week, and I ended up getting into a rut where I made the same meals over and over, week after week.
And poor Josh.
He would ask “What happened to that [insert not-boring recipe here] you used to make? Why don’t we ever have that anymore?”
And my response was always the same: “Hey! I forgot about that recipe! Let’s have it next week.”
Well, after doing some research and gathering some tips from the most efficient meal planning folks on Pinterest, I discovered that what I needed was a meal planning binder. More specifically, I needed a meal planning binder that would let me create a master list of meals to choose from so I could get out of this miserable meal planning rut.
And let me tell you what: using a meal planning binder has been a real game-changer! I’ll never go back to my old ways again.
So let me share with you how you can use my free printable meal planning binder (which you can download at the end of this post) to simplify your own meal planning efforts!
Why you need a meal planning binder
A meal planning binder will help you plan your weekly meals quickly and efficiently because you’ll have a master list of your family’s favorite meals to choose from, and all of your favorite recipes will be conveniently housed in one place.
So instead of keeping your favorite recipes in your head or in various cookbooks or on a Pinterest board, you’ll have everything you need in one convenient binder!
It’s pretty genius, if you ask me.
How to set up your meal planning binder
This will be your official meal planning/recipe binder, and it should only contain your absolute favorite foods. This is not a place to store recipes that you plan to make someday, or recipes that are just so-so. This is going to be your tried-and-true, go-to source for family favorites.
With that in mind, here’s how to set up your meal planning binder:
Gather your supplies
- A 3-ring binder
- A 3-hole punch
- Divider tabs
- The printable pages in my free meal planning binder
- A pen or pencil
Make the cover pretty
Place the cover page in the front sleeve of a 3-ring binder. (Don’t punch holes in this page.)
Prepare the pages
Punch holes in the category pages and the notes page using a 3-hole punch. (Ignore the 2 meal planning pages for now.)
Place divider tabs on these pages so you can easily flip to your desired category when it’s time to make your meal plan.
Put the pages in your binder.
List your favorite foods
For each category page, list all of your absolute favorite foods. These can be creations that have an accompanying written or printed recipe, recipes you have saved on Pinterest, easy foods that don’t have a recipe, and foods you buy already made.
For example, I don’t have a specific recipe for pita pizzas or steamed broccoli, and I buy whole grain bagels already made from the grocery store, but I still have them listed on my “mains,” “sides,” and “breakfasts” category pages (respectively) because they are some of our favorites.
The idea is to list aaaaalllll of your favorite foods so you have a big list to choose from when it’s time to plan your meals!
Gather your recipes
For foods that require a recipe, be sure you have a written or printed copy to put in your binder. You can print your recipes online, make copies from cookbooks, or hand write them out. And don’t forget to punch holes in them!
Organize your recipes
Place your written and printed recipes behind the relevant category pages so you can quickly find them when it’s time to cook.
And now you have a complete meal planning binder!
How to use your meal planning binder to plan your weekly meals
Now that you have your meal planning binder ready to go, it’s time to put it to good use!
Here’s what you’ll do:
Make your meal plan
Each week, take out a new meal planning sheet and write down what you plan to eat. Use the category pages to help you select your meals.
Note: My free printable meal planning binder includes two different styles of meal planning sheets, so I recommend printing a small stack of your favorite style so you always have a new sheet for next week. You can store them in the front or back pocket of your binder.
Make your grocery list
Once you know what you’ll cook this week, go through each recipe and check your kitchen to make sure you have all the necessary ingredients. If you don’t have an ingredient, write it in the appropriate category on the grocery shopping side of the meal planning sheet.
Go grocery shopping
Take your meal planning sheet with you to the grocery store so you know exactly what to buy for this week’s meals. I like to carry mine on a clipboard so it’s easier to manage.
Display your meal plan
When you get back home, place your meal planning sheet in a prominent location so you can see what to cook each day.
Also, try to get in the habit of checking your meal plan first thing in the morning 1) so you know what to expect when it’s time to cook, and 2) so you can do any necessary prep work, such as thawing frozen food, ahead of time.
Free printable meal planning binder
And now for the good stuff! You can get my free printable meal planning binder here.
The binder includes
- A cover page
- Category pages for appetizers, soups, salads, mains, sides, breads, sauces, desserts, drinks, breakfasts, snacks, and miscellaneous recipes
- A page for notes
- 2 styles of meal planning/grocery list pages
Final Thoughts on This Meal Planning Binder
Now you know how to make meal planning a breeze by using a meal planning binder! I can’t emphasize enough how big a difference this makes in my own life, and I know it will make a big difference for you too.
So go ahead and grab a copy of my free printable meal planning binder so you can actually enjoy the meal planning process!
Other Homemaking Posts You May Enjoy
- Meal Planning Made Simple
- 4 Grocery Shopping Tips That Will Change the Way You Shop
- How to Choose the Best Kitchen Knife
- What to Expect from Lidl (my first trip to Aldi’s competitor!)
- 22 Essential Kitchen Tools and Gadgets for Every Healthy Kitchen
What about you? Do you have any tips to help streamline the meal planning process? Let me know in the comments!
Also, if you found this post helpful, feel free to share it or pin it for later!